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while self-reflection is the first step in contemplation and in making
decisions from a foundation of heart and mind, the act of contemplation
alone does not make contemplative education unique. It is when
contemplation infuses a rigorous academic study with the disciplined
training of the heart that contemplative education’s distinctiveness
shines, enabling a student’s capacity not just to see but to address the
needs of the world. Steeped in academic excellence and spiritual
insight, this marriage of a compassionate heart and a purposeful mind
makes contemplative education distinguished, valuable, and powerful.
that is merely a process of acquiring intellectual knowledge is
learning from the outside in, disconnected from the heart, the spirit,
and the rest of the world. In contrast, contemplative education fosters
learning from the inside out. It brings intellect and intuition together
in a powerful pedagogy of creativity and insight. Why is that of value?
In contemplation, the heart and mind are equally engaged. Meditation
and other contemplative practices enhance our awareness of our lives and
the lives of others. Awareness, felt in the body, held in the heart,
and known in the mind, brings with it the desire and capability to lead
an engaged life of mindfulness and service.
a contemplative educational setting, a student who is developing the
tools for engagement will find that awareness permeates life both in and
out of the classroom. For example, someone interested in the
environment would not just read textbooks and case studies on the
subject, but would also participate in a community project to clean a
local river and petition for legislative changes to ensure its safety.
By reflecting both quietly during meditation practice, aloud during
class discussions, and publicly on the causes and effects of
environmental degradation, the student learns holistically through
study, personal insight, and informed action. To complete the holistic
circle, students must be enabled to probe further, discovering how their
own choices have contributed to the problem and what steps must be
taken to improve the situation on a personal, as well as a societal
level. This training is particularly relevant given the need for ethical
decision-making so evident today.
Naropa, students are asked to utilize contemplative practice in their
investigations of life’s big existential questions: Who am I? What is
happiness? How do I lead a life worth living? How can I be of service to
others? Such questions, when united with contemplative inquiry, can be a
profound inspiration to the academic pursuit, breathing life and
meaning into one’s higher educational career. These big-life questions
are difficult to approach in a traditional educational curriculum.
However, by learning the value of personally experiencing the subject
matter, intuitively as well as intellectually, students of contemplative
education begin to embrace the immediacy of their interior lives as a
means of fully integrating what they learn. And while these important
topics may be largely unexplored in traditional education, their
profound mystery remains at the foundation of our very lives.
full meaning of contemplative education is very subtle and difficult to
describe concretely. One way to approach this method of teaching is to
see its results in the lives of students, in the choices they make in
regard to service, in their efforts to meet the world as it is and
change it for the better.